I missed last week’s column because of Good Friday or something. So there will be more Jawesome things this week to make up for it! BONUS JAWESOME! BONJAWSOME! He’s everybody’s second favorite New Jersey rock singer.
Since last we spoke I’ve finished three(!) books. Two of them were very short and one was an audiobook, but whatever! Books! Here are some brief reviews.
Ragnarok: The End of the Gods by A. S. Byatt
A telling of the Norse mythology, at least part of it, wrapped up in a semi-autobiographical frame story about a “thin girl” in WWII England reading about said myths. It’s pretty good, covering much of the basic stories we know and a few lesser known stories (Loki’s children are super great). The real reason to read this book instead of the wikipedia pages is Byatt’s marvelous prose. It borders on poetic, focusing on the forms and functions of the various deities and the supernatural world around them. Rivers flow, rocks move or don’t. Loki shifts. It’s beautiful in its horribleness. Because this is a book about how evil we can be to each other. The WWII border isn’t just there to give the girl something to worry about. It’s there to remind us that we’re still playing out the Ragnarok as long as we fight each other.
“The black thing in her brain and the dark water on the page were the same thing, a form of knowledge. This is how myths work. They are things, creatures, stories, inhabiting the mind. They cannot be explained and do not explain; they are neither creeds nor allegories. The Black was now in the thing child’s head and was part of the way she took in every new thing she encountered.”
The Infernals by John Connolly
This is a sequel to the YA book The Gates, also by Connolly, who is best known for his crime novels. In the first book, young Samuel Johnson and his trusted basset hound fought off an invasion by Hell’s denizens by way of the Large Hadron Collider. In this book, his Hellbound nemesis, Mrs. Abernathy (the demon Ba’al in an Earthly disguise) drags Samuel and his dog and a few innocent bystanders into Hell in order to reclaim her spot at the left hand of The Great Malevolence. It’s kind of confusing, I guess, but Connolly writes with a jaunty wit that keeps everything moving. There’s less here than in the first book, though the friendship between Samuel and a demon he met as he tried to stop the first invasion is nicely written and quite touching. The book flies from place to place, not stopping long enough to create a sense of dread that a book about wandering around the plains of Hell should probably have. There are a few moments of scariness, including a nicely mythical description of one of Hell’s less fortunate denizens, Old Ram, and his torture by twisted souls transformed into twisted trees. It goes by very quickly, being just a little over 300 pages of not-at-all-difficult writing. A fun, if a little too inconsequential, time.
The other book was Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, which was very good, but that’s about all I have to say about it.
2. Game of Thrones has returned!
The second season of the phenomenal Game of Thrones TV show has returned, and it is continuing the greatness. The first episode didn’t even feature any Arya, arguably the best character on the show, and it was still great. This season seems to be straying further from the source material, but I’m ok with that. There are things you must do when condensing a book down to size and then changing the medium from page to screen. I will reserve judgement until I see something that is bad as a TV show, not just different from the book. The newly introduced characters are pretty great, Davos especially. I look forward to his story on screen.
3. We Need to Talk About Kevin
Whoa! This movie is intense. It gives Melancholia a run for its money when it comes to making you feel what it wants you to feel, namely incredibly tense and unhappy. There are a few scenes that will stick in my memory for a long time. Which makes sense, because most of this film operates in memory. It is much like Tree of Life in that we have a character remembering a childhood with the color of the present instead of a straight show of that childhood as it actually happened. “What personality” is a question that a kid wouldn’t ask, but it totally works because we’re seeing what happened through Swinton’s eyes, not some impartial observer’s. We’re thrown into the situation, and those early minutes are impressionistic and wonderful. What’s happening doesn’t matter as much as how we’re feeling about what’s happening. There’s a shoutout to Rosemary’s Baby and the film traffics in that kind of horror. What do we do when there’s a kid that we think is evil? How do we cope? Where did all this red paint come from?
4. Going to see my sister in concert
My sister, Leah, is a Junior at Hofstra University. She’s going for her Music Education degree and had to sing in a solo show. It was a lot of fun, even if I had to wait a little longer for the season premiere of Game of Thrones.
5. Some 1957 movies, but not others.
You already know how I feel about Sweet Smell of Success, but on the same day I watched Zero Hour! and that was, uh, not Jawesome. Zero Hour! is perhaps only known for being the film that Airplane! was based on. It’s funny, too, but I don’t know if that was on purpose or not. None of the acting is any good, nor’s the direction special, nor’s the script worth writing home about. It’s all so silly, which, I guess, makes for a great farce. This film probably should have been a Twilight Zone episode (though that show doesn’t exist for two more years) and there should have been a gremlin on the wing. That’d be something to watch. This isn’t.
6. This video of the UNC basketball team playing against some students
I don’t care one way or another about the UNC squad, but this is a great thing that they do to remind everybody that they’re students, too. And then, at the third minute mark, magic happens. It’s wonderful. This is what sports are about.